Research

A half-century ago, the great pioneers of ethology (e.g. Tinbergen 1951) and neuroscience (e.g. Hebb 1949) recognized that the need to bridge the gap between the ‘ethologist’ and the ‘physiologist’ was integral toward achieving a clear understanding of the behavior of the ‘intact animal’. Today, as integrative approaches in biology steadily gain increasing popularity and as vast technological advances have been made, perhaps ironically, the distinctions in the study of evolution Tinbergen envisioned (including describing the course of evolution, the genetics proper of behavior, and the directional changes under the influence of natural selection) have begun to coalesce. A multi-level approach toward accounting for genetic, brain, and behavioral factors offers the opportunity to gain a better understanding of mechanisms of behavior, and offer insight into the causes of both the evolution and behavior of Tinbergen’s ‘intact animal’.

A conceptual overview of the research we conduct

Our lab is unified in our quest to better understand social behavior. Sociality is one of the most intriguing topics in the study of animal behavior, because it is so pervasive. Work in our lab can be broadly categorized into the following aspects of social behavior.

1) Investigating neural mechanisms subserving mating decisions & tactics. 

(The prairie vole work) Funding from NIH NICHD and NSF IOS currently supports this work. For more on these projects click here: NIH and NSF.

2) Individual variation in correlated suites of behavior. 

(The African giant pouched rat work) Funding from Army Research Office and DARPA currently funds this work.